News

PayPal exec battled mental illness, family said

Eric Salvatierra, 39, was killed by train

This is an expanded version of an article previously published online.

A losing battle against mental illness led a man to his death, according to a statement released by his family on Monday.

The man struck by a train in Menlo Park on March 9 was Eric Salvatierra, a 39-year-old Palo Alto resident, the San Mateo County Coroner's Office said.

A married father of three young daughters, Mr. Salvatierra worked at PayPal as vice president for customer advocacy and operational excellence. He had also served as vice president and CFO at Skype. His 14 years at the three companies included working as eBay's first vice president for site management and fraud prevention, according to eBay CEO John Donahoe; the company now owns PayPal.

He volunteered on the board of directors for Peninsula Bridge, a nonprofit dedicated to creating academic opportunities for students from low-income communities, and with other nonprofits.

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Mr. Salvatierra lived in Palo Alto with his wife, Meredith Ackley, whom he met as a camp counselor in college. The couple had three children, aged 3, 8 and 10.

His family released a statement Monday, March 12, characterizing his death as a lost battle against a mental illness. Mr. Salvatierra was diagnosed last summer with bipolar II disorder and depression, according to the statement.

The couple had been working with health care professionals for the past eight months to deal with his mental illnesses, the family said.

"In the end, he lost his fight with this debilitating disease," the family wrote in the statement.

The Salvatierra-Ackley family noted in the statement that it decided to be forthcoming about Mr. Salvatierra's illness "to support others who are suffering, and also to help abolish the stigma associated with mental illness."

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An email from eBay CEO John Donahoe praised Mr. Salvatierra, one of the company's longest-serving employees. Mr. Donahoe said his "tireless and passionate commitment to every task and his loyalty to the company were a hallmark of Eric's tenure at eBay."

He wrote that Mr. Salvatierra's many gifts included an "ability to bring out the best in all of us and compel his colleagues to be better employees and better people."

Saying that Mr. Salvatierra was a unique and special colleague who was loved and admired by all, Mr. Donahoe wrote: "For all of us who had the privilege of knowing and working with Eric, we will remember and miss his wit, intelligence, and joy of life both professionally and personally. Our deepest sympathies and thoughts are with Meredith and the girls. Our hearts go out to them for the sudden loss of such a beloved, valued and respected husband, father, friend and colleague."

The Friday collision occurred at about 9:30 a.m. on the tracks near Ravenswood Avenue, according to Caltrain. People at the scene commented that Mr. Salvatierra had been seen with a silver road bike and helmet. Describing the scene, an agency representative said that the speed of the train at the time of collision was irrelevant because of its massive weight.

In his email, the eBay CEO wrote that Mr. Salvatierra had suffered a "debilitating mental illness" that prompted him to take a leave of absence last year.

It also noted that in recent months the couple found support through the National Alliance on Mental Illness, a national nonprofit that provides education on mental-health issues, and that the family is now receiving grief counseling from KARA, a Palo Alto-based organization.

Funeral services have not yet been announced; the widow has asked that support go to both KARA and the National Alliance on Mental Illness, as two organizations that work to abolish the stigma of mental illness. Mr. Donahoe said the company would make contributions to the organizations in Mr. Salvatierra's memory.

The San Mateo County coroner will make the final determination of the cause of death, and investigators continue to piece together what happened. This was the fourth death on the railroad's right-of-way this year, according to Caltrain. Last year there were 16 fatalities.

"No matter what the circumstances, it is always regrettable when a life is lost," said Caltrain spokeswoman Tasha Bartholomew in an email. "Caltrain reminds everyone to be safe around train tracks. Caltrain also would like to thank our passengers for their patience as we deal with these sad incidents."

Over the years, Caltrain has installed no trespassing signs and signs listing a crisis hotline number every 500 feet along the 55-mile railroad to try to reduce deaths.

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PayPal exec battled mental illness, family said

Eric Salvatierra, 39, was killed by train

by / Almanac

Uploaded: Tue, Mar 13, 2012, 8:15 am

This is an expanded version of an article previously published online.

A losing battle against mental illness led a man to his death, according to a statement released by his family on Monday.

The man struck by a train in Menlo Park on March 9 was Eric Salvatierra, a 39-year-old Palo Alto resident, the San Mateo County Coroner's Office said.

A married father of three young daughters, Mr. Salvatierra worked at PayPal as vice president for customer advocacy and operational excellence. He had also served as vice president and CFO at Skype. His 14 years at the three companies included working as eBay's first vice president for site management and fraud prevention, according to eBay CEO John Donahoe; the company now owns PayPal.

He volunteered on the board of directors for Peninsula Bridge, a nonprofit dedicated to creating academic opportunities for students from low-income communities, and with other nonprofits.

Mr. Salvatierra lived in Palo Alto with his wife, Meredith Ackley, whom he met as a camp counselor in college. The couple had three children, aged 3, 8 and 10.

His family released a statement Monday, March 12, characterizing his death as a lost battle against a mental illness. Mr. Salvatierra was diagnosed last summer with bipolar II disorder and depression, according to the statement.

The couple had been working with health care professionals for the past eight months to deal with his mental illnesses, the family said.

"In the end, he lost his fight with this debilitating disease," the family wrote in the statement.

The Salvatierra-Ackley family noted in the statement that it decided to be forthcoming about Mr. Salvatierra's illness "to support others who are suffering, and also to help abolish the stigma associated with mental illness."

An email from eBay CEO John Donahoe praised Mr. Salvatierra, one of the company's longest-serving employees. Mr. Donahoe said his "tireless and passionate commitment to every task and his loyalty to the company were a hallmark of Eric's tenure at eBay."

He wrote that Mr. Salvatierra's many gifts included an "ability to bring out the best in all of us and compel his colleagues to be better employees and better people."

Saying that Mr. Salvatierra was a unique and special colleague who was loved and admired by all, Mr. Donahoe wrote: "For all of us who had the privilege of knowing and working with Eric, we will remember and miss his wit, intelligence, and joy of life both professionally and personally. Our deepest sympathies and thoughts are with Meredith and the girls. Our hearts go out to them for the sudden loss of such a beloved, valued and respected husband, father, friend and colleague."

The Friday collision occurred at about 9:30 a.m. on the tracks near Ravenswood Avenue, according to Caltrain. People at the scene commented that Mr. Salvatierra had been seen with a silver road bike and helmet. Describing the scene, an agency representative said that the speed of the train at the time of collision was irrelevant because of its massive weight.

In his email, the eBay CEO wrote that Mr. Salvatierra had suffered a "debilitating mental illness" that prompted him to take a leave of absence last year.

It also noted that in recent months the couple found support through the National Alliance on Mental Illness, a national nonprofit that provides education on mental-health issues, and that the family is now receiving grief counseling from KARA, a Palo Alto-based organization.

Funeral services have not yet been announced; the widow has asked that support go to both KARA and the National Alliance on Mental Illness, as two organizations that work to abolish the stigma of mental illness. Mr. Donahoe said the company would make contributions to the organizations in Mr. Salvatierra's memory.

The San Mateo County coroner will make the final determination of the cause of death, and investigators continue to piece together what happened. This was the fourth death on the railroad's right-of-way this year, according to Caltrain. Last year there were 16 fatalities.

"No matter what the circumstances, it is always regrettable when a life is lost," said Caltrain spokeswoman Tasha Bartholomew in an email. "Caltrain reminds everyone to be safe around train tracks. Caltrain also would like to thank our passengers for their patience as we deal with these sad incidents."

Over the years, Caltrain has installed no trespassing signs and signs listing a crisis hotline number every 500 feet along the 55-mile railroad to try to reduce deaths.

Comments

Rick Schwartz
Menlo Park: The Willows
on Mar 13, 2012 at 5:29 pm
Rick Schwartz, Menlo Park: The Willows
on Mar 13, 2012 at 5:29 pm
Like this comment

To the family, you have my deepest sympathy for this tragedy. And you have the gratitude of our community, for coming forward with information in such an open and honest way. If there is any good that can come of this, it is to contribute support and understanding of those who battle depression. I believe that through your courage, you have helped others who struggle with depression to successfully treat and overcome this disease.


Survivor
another community
on Mar 13, 2012 at 8:58 pm
Survivor, another community
on Mar 13, 2012 at 8:58 pm
Like this comment

I am indeed sorry for Eric and his family. What I am particularly sorry about is that Eric fell into the hands of mental health professionals who chose to diagnose him with a so-called "brain disorder" for which there is no known biological test and proceeded to medicate him with what was undoubtedly a cocktail made up from tranquilizers, antidepressants, antipsychotics, and mood stabilizers, all of which are disabling and crippling in their effects. Did anyone really try to listen and find out what circumstances led to his troubled state in the first place? Bipolar disorder has become a catch all for all sorts of emotional and psychosocial ills. We are in an epidemic of "bipolar disorder" and if anyone cares to look they can see quickly that it's being created in large part by side effects from psychiatric drugs prescribed for "depression" or "insomnia." Being labeled "bipolar" does nothing to remedy whatever led Eric to fall into his troubled state. With what supposedly benign medication did his decline commence? Was he put on a prescription sleep "aid" initially? How many people know that these "aids" create dependency within two weeks and that mini withdrawals between doses result in impulsive and angry behavior that could easily be mistaken for mania? Then come the antidepressants that trigger further mania, the mood stabilizers and when they don't work, the antipsychotics. How many people truly understand that these meds worsen outcomes over the long term if people even live that long because they greatly increase the risk of suicide too? I would place bets that it was treatment that killed Eric, not a "disease." Please don't get sucked into some trite interpretation of what's going on here and stop the murder and mayhem that is being perpetrated by big pharma and psychiatry with their misguided and flawed paradigms. Read Robert Whitaker and David Healy and start to save lives.


With respect
Menlo Park: other
on Mar 14, 2012 at 2:19 pm
With respect, Menlo Park: other
on Mar 14, 2012 at 2:19 pm
Like this comment

Sending deepest condolences to your family. Sadly we have experienced two suicides in the past 1/12 yrs within our greater MP community. Your courage to discuss depression issues openly will surely help those suffering and their families to talk more freely, and find the support they need. Your openness at this incredibly difficult time is a gift to us all. Depression can no longer be a secret we all conspire to keep. There is too much at stake.


no tomorrow
Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 14, 2012 at 2:53 pm
no tomorrow, Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 14, 2012 at 2:53 pm
Like this comment

Depression still carries a huge stigma, and all the sanctimonious comments on these boards don't change a thing. Posters can express sympathy toward this particular suicide because he "wasn't like most of them." Young, attractive, with a family, impressive track record, enviable career. But many of us with depression are unable to finish school, acquire friends, much less a spouse and kids, or keep a job. We're not very appealing people, are we?

The upside, from your perspective, is that we are not going to cause distress to thousands of people and permanent trauma to many by throwing ourselves in front of a commuter train. We tend to go quietly, overdosing on prescription drugs or drinking ourselves to death. You simply don't hear about us, which is a good thing, because it would be much harder for you to pretend to care.


Hmmm
another community
on Mar 14, 2012 at 4:36 pm
Hmmm, another community
on Mar 14, 2012 at 4:36 pm
Like this comment

No Tomorrow - we don't hear about you because there are laws that now prevent public reporting of most suicides.

Are you getting help?

BTW, in addition to Eric, I've known others who either attempted suicide or succeeded who were traditionally attractive & successful. That doesn't mean they didn't experience hell on earth w/what they were going through. Don't blame them for their gifts, just as we're told not to blame them for their illness. Don't blame us for not being aware of the "other" group to which you refer. You have NO idea who we live around, work around, or what we know/don't know about the ones who don't garner as much attention.

Are you actually envious of the suicides who seem to have had it all???? If so, get help immediately.


cristeen
Woodside: other
on Mar 14, 2012 at 9:00 pm
cristeen, Woodside: other
on Mar 14, 2012 at 9:00 pm
Like this comment

I have to agree with the commentator that suggested sadly that perhaps his seeking mental health assistance led to his suicidal behavior. To hear that the family is receiving assistance from NAMI, which is a group funded by big PHARMA, which treats people almost exclusively with medications that we are coming to learn exacerbate the symotoms of mental illness rather than treatments such as psychotherapy and social support, which have better outcomes in real clinical trials. The risk of suicide when taking many of the drugs groups like NAMI support actually increase suicidal ideation, and causes any number of "side effects" which become intolerable. The claims of the drug companies that this is all caused by the underlying illness is spurious and has been proven so by many researchers. And yes, bipolar disorder II is diagnosed so willy nilly and generally refers to someone with depression who at times is able to function well. You can't be both depressed and bipolar as bipolar includes the depressive disorder in the bipolar, so his diagnosis makes little sense.


Sympathy
Menlo Park: The Willows
on Mar 14, 2012 at 10:41 pm
Sympathy, Menlo Park: The Willows
on Mar 14, 2012 at 10:41 pm
Like this comment

Thank you to the family for taking a step toward eliminating the stigma surrounding mental illness. My thoughts, prayers and sympathies are with you. I am so sorry for your loss. It must be heartbreaking.


Michelle
another community
on Mar 15, 2012 at 10:14 pm
Michelle, another community
on Mar 15, 2012 at 10:14 pm
Like this comment

My deepest condolences to the Salvaterria and Ackery families. My heart breaks for you and my prayers are with you and those beautiful little daughters.
To all of you posters who are going on and on about mental health providers and how Eric was steered wrong by them. Who do you think you are throwing in your insensitive thoughts on the subject at such a devastating time? Seriously, what good comes from your senseless blabber? This man is gone, he is never coming back and his wife and three precious daughters are left without their husband and daddy. Nobody needs to know what a genius you are. Especially when it benefits nobody but yourself.How about a little compassion and support?
God bless Meredith,Lia, Eva and Elena.You will all see him again one day.


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